March 25, 2023

Bits: In Shake-Up, Apple’s Mobile Software and Retail Chiefs to Depart

Scott Forstall at an Apple event in September.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press Scott Forstall at an Apple event in September.

8:24 p.m. | Updated Apple fired the executives in charge of the company’s mobile software efforts and retail stores, in a management shake-up aimed at making the company’s divisions work more harmoniously together.

The biggest of the changes involved the departure of Scott Forstall, an Apple veteran who for several years ran software development for Apple’s iPad and iPhone products. Mr. Forstall was an important executive at the company and the one who, in many respects, seemed to most closely embody the technology vision of Steven P. Jobs, the former chief executive of Apple who died a year ago.

But Mr. Forstall was also known as ambitious and divisive, qualities that generated more friction within Apple after the death of Mr. Jobs, who had kept the dueling egos of his senior executives largely in check. Mr. Forstall’s responsibilities will be divided among a few other Apple executives.

While tensions between Mr. Forstall and other executives had been mounting for some time, a recent incident appeared to play a major role in his dismissal. After an outcry among iPhone customers about bugs in the company’s new mobile maps service, Mr. Forstall refused to sign a public apology over the matter, dismissing the problems as exaggerated, according to people with knowledge of the situation who declined to be named discussing confidential matters.

Instead, Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, in September signed the apology letter to Apple customers over maps.

Apple said in a news release on Monday that the management changes would “encourage even more collaboration” at the company. But people briefed on Apple’s moves, who declined to be identified talking about confidential decisions at the company, said Mr. Forstall and John Browett were fired.

John BrowettDixons Retails, via Associated Press John Browett

Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, said neither executive was available for an interview. Mr. Forstall did not respond to interview requests over e-mail and Facebook.

Mr. Browett, who took over as head of the company’s retail operations in April, will also leave the company after a number of missteps. Apple said that a search for a new head of retail was under way and that the retail team would report directly to Mr. Cook in the meantime.

Mr. Forstall will leave Apple next year and serve as an adviser to Mr. Cook until then.

Eddy Cue, who oversees Apple’s Internet services, will take over development of Apple maps and Siri, the voice-activated virtual assistant in the iPhone. Both technologies have been widely criticized by some who say they fall short of the usual polish of Apple products.

Jonathan Ive, the influential head of industrial design at Apple, will take on more software responsibilities at the company by providing more “leadership and direction for Human Interface,” Apple said. Craig Federighi, who was previously in charge of Apple’s Mac software development, will also lead development of iOS, the software for iPads and iPhones.

Apple said Bob Mansfield, an executive who previously ran hardware engineering and was planning to retire from Apple, will lead a new group, Technologies. That group will combine Apple’s wireless and semiconductor teams. Apple in a statement said the semiconductor teams had “ambitious plans for the future.”

Recently, Mr. Mansfield had been working on his own projects at the company, operating without anyone reporting to him directly. One of the areas of interest Mr. Mansfield had been exploring is health-related accessories and applications for Apple’s mobile products, said an Apple partner who declined to be named discussing unannounced products.

Mr. Forstall was a staunch believer in a type of user interface, skeuomorphic design, which tries to imitate artifacts and textures in real life. Most of Apple’s built-in applications for iOS use skeuomorphic design, including imitating thread of a leather binder in the Game Center application and a wooden bookshelf feel in the newsstand application.

Mr. Jobs was also a proponent of skeuomorphic design; he had a leather texture added to apps that mimicked the seats on his private jet. Yet most other executives, specifically Mr. Ive, have always believed that these artifacts looked outdated and that user interface design on the computer had reached a point where skeuomorph was no longer necessary.

Mr. Forstall, who trained as an actor at a young age, also shared with Mr. Jobs a commanding stage presence at events introducing Apple products, often delivering his speeches with a pensive style that echoed that of Mr. Jobs.

According to two people who have worked with Apple to develop new third-party products for the iPhone, the relationship between Mr. Forstall and Mr. Ive had soured to a point that the two executives would not sit in the same meeting room together.

A senior Apple employee who asked not to be named said Mr. Forstall had also incurred the ire of other executives after inserting himself into product development that went beyond his role at the company. One person in touch with Apple executives said the mood of people at the company was largely positive about Mr. Forstall’s departure.

“This was better than the Giants winning the World Series,” he said. “People are really excited.”

The departure of Mr. Browett was less surprising to outsiders. In August, the company took the unusual step of publicly apologizing for a plan by Mr. Browett to cut back on staffing at its stores. Charlie Wolf, an analyst at Needham Company, said he was never convinced that Mr. Browett was a good choice to join Apple because he had previously run Dixons, a British retailer that is viewed as being more downmarket than Apple’s retail operations.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 29, 2012

A caption with an earlier version of this post misspelled the surname of Apple’s departing retail director. He is John Browett, not Browlett.

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Father and Son Split on Tactics in Murdoch Family Drama

Whether or not the announcement will give the company any respite from the growing indignation and official investigations, it seems to have already altered not only the dynamics within one of the world’s most powerful and profitable media companies but also, possibly, the future of the newspaper business within the News Corporation.

The decision to withdraw the bid for BSkyB, as the satellite broadcaster is known, was made as a contentious family drama played out in recent days. James Murdoch, a leading contender to replace his father as chairman and the driving force behind the News Corporation’s bid to take over BSkyB, argued that the company should press for regulatory approval of the deal, said three people with knowledge of the discussions who declined to be identified because they were revealing confidential company deliberations.

But Rupert Murdoch and the News Corporation’s chief operating officer, Chase Carey, overruled the younger Mr. Murdoch, consulting him only after the decision was all but final.

The deal to buy the remaining 61 percent of BSkyB that it did not own was the single biggest ever attempted in the long history of the News Corporation, and the withdrawal is perhaps the most significant setback of Rupert Murdoch’s career. Yet Mr. Murdoch is said to remain hopeful that the transaction is salvageable. One person involved in the discussions said that the News Corporation chairman saw the withdrawal as a way to mollify his critics while waiting for the anger to die down.

“Rupert is thinking long term here, I don’t think he believes this deal is dead,” said this person, who did not want to be named while discussing confidential matters. “He’s just looking for ways to relieve pressure for the moment, to give this some breathing room. He fundamentally believes News Corp. can bounce back.”

In a statement released Wednesday, the News Corporation acknowledged that the mood in Britain had become too hostile to pursue the BSkyB purchase. “We believed that the proposed acquisition of BSkyB by News Corporation would benefit both companies, but it has become clear that it is too difficult to progress in this climate,” Mr. Carey said. But in its statement, the company said it reserved the right to make another bid.

The announcement is particularly fraught for James Murdoch, who ran BSkyB from 2003 to 2007. He has been the principal champion of the BSkyB purchase within the News Corporation, pressing both his father and the company’s board to go along with the deal. With BSkyB reporting to James, who runs the News Corporation’s European and Asian operations, the businesses in his portfolio would account for half of all the News Corporation’s revenue.

But the revelations of phone hacking in Britain have pulled James Murdoch in deeper by the day, with questions swirling in Parliament and the British press over his role in paying settlements to victims of the hacking.

Only a week ago, the News Corporation hoped to contain the damage by taking another dramatic and once unthinkable step: shutting down the 168-year-old News of the World, which Mr. Murdoch purchased in 1969 to form the foundation for his British media empire. But a series of disclosures badly damaged the newspaper, most notably its acknowledgment that it had illegally intercepted the voice mail of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl abducted and murdered in 2002.

Since then, virtually every day has brought dizzying new disclosures and speculation, culminating in the News Corporation’s announcement on Wednesday. Allegations of hacking and other journalistic dirty tricks have spread to other Murdoch papers in Britain, including The Sun and The Sunday Times.

Rupert Murdoch, who had flown to London to deal with the crisis, arrived at the company’s offices around 11 a.m., looking grim. Mr. Carey was also seen entering the building.

Jeremy W. Peters reported from New York, and John F. Burns from London. Reporting was contributed by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Brian Stelter and Floyd Norris from New York, and Ravi Somaiya from London.

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